Tag Archives: queer parenting

On Love and Parenting

This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we are sharing love stories. We kicked things off with a two part series from Aden and his fiance, Josh. Today’s story is one of love and parenthood. If you have a love story for the Keshet blog, let us know!  Celebrate all kinds of love with our queer Jewish Valentines! 

Lonely.
Fear.
Anger.
The Closet.

Hope.
Liberation.
Self-Determination.
Coming Out.

Lust.
Sex.
Love.
Dating.

Commitment.
Community.
Bonding.
Marriage.

Longing.
Questioning.
Exploring.
Dreaming of our family.

Anxiety.
Anticipation.
Joy.
Conception.

Heart pumping.
Adrenaline racing.
Tears streaming.
Birth.

Love.
Love.
Love.
Family.

This is the journey of our lives. Having been together for over 19 years, my husband and I have traveled this wonderful path. If we had only overcome the first stage, dayenu, that would have been enough. Had we only reached just one additional stage thereafter, dayenu, that too would have been enough.

But, we did want more. While we had a very full and blessed life as a couple we knew very early on in our relationship that we shared a mutual desire to have children and create a family. How we would do so remained elusive for several years until we decided to have children via surrogacy.

Lee and his family.

Lee and his family.

Today, we are blessed with two beautiful children, an almost 8-year old son and 4-year old daughter. They are the true joys of our lives. They complete us and we are blessed.

In writing this blog, I was asked to ponder how love and parenthood go hand in hand. So many books have been written. So many stories have been told.  In so many ways I feel inadequate and certainly very humbled trying to articulate my own thoughts and ideas about such an important and awesome emotion and responsibility. Yet, I recognize that with all that has been said in literature, in the press, on social media, so much more needs to be said because the writings of love about LGBT parenting remains under-represented and certainly under constant attack. My husband and I stand in stark contrast to that precept and loudly say that we love our children unequivocally and as wholly and as wholesomely as any loving and devoted parent on the planet.

When I saw my son crawl and then walk, I felt love.

When my daughter gives me a kiss and a hug, I feel love.

When my son performs his piano recital, I feel love.

When my daughter kicks the ball and rides her bike, I feel love.

When my husband and I sit down to Shabbos dinner every Friday night and recite the parental blessings over our children, I feel love.

When I wake my children up in the morning and prepare them for school, make their lunch and put them on the school bus, I feel love.

When my husband puts our children to bed at night, reads them a book, sings a song or lullaby, I feel love.

When they spend time with their cousins, their grandmother, their loved ones, I feel love.

When I pick my children up from Hebrew School and they tell me a story from the Torah that they learned this week, I feel love.

When we roll around the floor, get goofy, make silly noises and have all out belly laughs, I feel love.

Love.

That’s what I feel every day I wake up and look into my children’s eyes.

This is love. This is my love. And no one will tell me otherwise.

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Posted on February 5, 2015

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Queer Tribes: Finding a Place for Alternative Families

In honor of Father’s/Fathers’ Day, we bring you Gregg Drinkwater’s essay on being a gay dad. You can read other posts in our series on and by parents: by a mother of a queer daughter in Colorado, here; by an Orthodox parent from Baltimore, MD, here; by the mother of a gay son in the Philadelphia suburbs, here; by the mother of gay twins and wife of a rabbi, here; and a video celebration of Mother’s Day/Mothers’ Day hereThis essay, originally published in May 2006, is drawn from the Torah Queeries online collection, based on the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.

Gregg Drinkwater and daughter

Gregg Drinkwater and daughter

The Book of Numbers opens with the voice of God, commanding Moses to conduct a census of the Israelites “according to their families, according to their fathers’ household.” (Numbers 1:2) Thirteen months have passed since the Exodus from Egypt and the “children of Israel” are still wandering in the wilderness of Sinai. The census is to be organized “according to their families,” which is to say, by tribe. Only men over the age of 20 are counted since the census is undertaken, in part, to prepare for war before attempting to enter the land of Israel. The count of each of the 12 tribes is then enumerated, one by one, until Moses and Aaron reach a final tally of 603,550, with another 22,000 Levites counted separately and marked off as a distinct group. Continue reading

Posted on June 14, 2013

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Documenting Queer Jews: An Interview with Caryn Aviv

In June 2002, Queer Jews came out in a big way. A collection of essays, memoirs and cultural analysis co-edited by Caryn Aviv and David Shneer, the volume explored everything from queer parenting to trans issues in traditionally gendered Jewish spaces to the creating of new rituals (including the ever-popular Queer Naked Seder). As part of a larger canon of queer Jewish writings, which first appeared on the literary scene in the early 1980s, Queer Jews marked an evolution in the form, as authors went beyond exploring their own stories to consider the impact queer Jews have on the larger Jewish community, and on Judaism itself.

Ten years since its publication, Keshet caught up with Dr. Caryn Aviv, Posen Lecturer in Secular Jewish Culture at the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver, author of three books and numerous academic and journalistic articles.

Since Queer Jews first came out, there have been many changes for LGBTQ Jewslegalized same-sex marriage in several states, the ordination of out gay Conservative rabbis, etc. If you were to reissue the book now, what would you want to see included? What change or changes do you think have been the most significant?

If we were going to reissue the book now, I think the most important thing to include would be a resource guide for rituals that queer Jews have created for marriages, for baby namings, that sort of thing. I’d love something like Ritualwell.org, but specifically for queer Jews. I’d even love to have one online, as a companion to the book.

I think it would be wonderful to include a piece on “Tales from the Front in the Battle for Marriage Equality.” I don’t want to lose people’s stories and memories, especially since those encompass both the legislative battles, but also the fights to change or update values within our own communities; I think it’s vital that those be collected somehow, that we create an archive of these for history.

You know, the whole idea of marking time through the anniversaries of books is really interesting. We just passed the 10th anniversary of Lesbian Rabbis [published in 2001], and that’s something that jumps out at me. We’ve now got a critical mass of queer clergy who are really visible. I think a piece—really you could write a whole book!—with perspectives on assuming positions of power would be a wonderful reflection.

If we were going to do it over, I’d love to include the voices of kids with queer parents, along with those of queer elders. Those are two sets of voices we really didn’t delve into in Queer Jews, and I’m fascinated by them. For kids, it’s this idea of, how did these multiple identities — being Jewish, and not necessarily queer themselves, but having this different point of view — how did that influence who they grew up to be? And the issue of queer elders is one I think about a lot these days. We have all of these established facilities for Jewish elders, and there are queer residents in them, but we have no programming specifically for them. I’d love to see a celebration of this group, and I’d love to get some of their voices published.

Caryn Aviv

Caryn Aviv, courtesy of SecularJewishCulture.org

Speaking of Lesbian Rabbis, many of the essays in Queer Jews reference Twice Blessed, a seminal collection of pieces about being lesbian or gay and Jewish, published in 1989. Do you think Queer Jews now occupies a similar place in the queer Jewish canon? You must hear from people who use your book all the time–what has the feedback been like in the course of the last decade?

Well, let me give you this anecdote by way of an answer: I just got a $50 royalty check for Queer Jews in the mail the other day — and honestly, most of the time I can’t believe it’s still in print and people are still buying it. Who would have imagined, in 1989 when Twice Blessed came out, that there would be such a thing as a queer Jewish canon? Now I have a whole bookshelf!

I feel grateful and blessed to be part of a group that includes volumes like The Tribe of Dina, Nice Jewish Girls and Twice Blessed. They represent the first generation of authors and activists trying to integrate and deal with their Jewish and gay identities. We were influenced by them, of course, but we were also influenced by ACT UP and Heeb magazine — a little more in-your-face, edgier. Queer Jews, like those books that came before it, was of an era, and it used a particular generational lens.

I imagine that the volumes that will follow ours will stand on our shoulders the way we stood on our predecessors’.

What’s on your queer Jewish reading list like now?

To be totally honest, I’m preparing to enter rabbinical school through the Aleph program, so my reading list is a little less radical and a little more Rashi, right now. I must say, though, since I’m reading and writing about the Torah so much, I’ve been happily rereading my copy of Torah Queeries [edited by Keshet staff member Gregg Drinkwater, Rabbi Joshua Lesser, and David Shneer]. It’s a wonderful resource.

In another ten years, what do you think we’ll be talking about in the queer Jewish world?

Let me say this – I’d love to see Keshet go out of business. I mean that in the nicest way possible, of course. What I mean is that I’d love to see the mission of full inclusion fulfilled, that queer Jews are essentially a non-issue, because we’re so pervasively accepted, not because anyone is invisible.

I have no idea whether marriage equality will be settled federally. I think the most we can hope for is that the law catches up to where people are socially.

I’m a parent, so of course I’m also very interested in the visibility of queer parenting, and more conversation about the various ways that queer people parent. I’d love to see kid’s literature and Young Adult lit that nonchalantly incorporate queer families.

I really don’t know what we’ll be talking about, but I’m excited to see it!

Posted on July 16, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy